Disease changed Lang's life

Published 7:59 pm Wednesday, October 5, 2005

By By LYDIA GRIMES – Features writer
There was a study done in the early 1990s, which stated the Brewton area had more lupus patients per capita than any other city in the United States. This is an alarming statistic and no one has never determined a definitive reason for the high numbers.
Numbers don't mean much to the victims of the disease. Almost everyone in the Brewton area knows at least one person who is suffering from lupus.
One of those who has been battling the disease is Janet Lang. She has seen it take over a great deal of her life and make a lot of changes in the way she spends her days. She was a typical young woman who was teaching school and rearing her four children while keeping a busy schedule with her other interests in the community. She was music director for First Baptist Church of Brewton when her symptoms began to become so severe that she had to give up her job and begin the battle that she continues today.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and tissue damage to virtually every organ in the body. It is difficult to diagnose and recognize because the symptoms are much like those of other common diseases. The facts are staggering. More than half the people with lupus suffer four or more years and visit three or more doctors before receiving a correct diagnosis. No single test can show if a person has lupus. Doctors may run a variety of tests and study the medical history. Even then, a diagnosis is based on all the symptoms together. Awareness of lupus is lowest among women 18-24, the age group most likely to develop the disease. Late diagnosis and delayed treatment contribute to tissue damage leading to potential organ failure or even death.
A campaign is underway to raise awareness of lupus and understand a disease that is baffling. Lupus is more than just aches and pains and skin rashes.
There are some tests that help but a clinical diagnosis is made over time; time that can work against the patient.
The immune system works to fight foreign substances in the body, such as germs and viruses, but in lupus, the immune system is out of control and attacks healthy tissue, not just germs. You can't catch lupus from another person and it affects each person differently. One person may have swollen knees and fever while another may be tired all the time or have kidney problems. Someone else may have rashes or have trouble with their joints, skin, kidneys or lungs. Usually one person doesn't have all the symptoms.
Some of the signs and symptoms of lupus are red rash or color change on the face, often in the shape of a butterfly across the nose and cheeks, painful or swollen joints; unexplained fever; chest pain with deep breathing; swollen glands; extreme fatigue; unusual hair loss; pale or purple fingers or toes from cold or stress; sensitivity to the sun; low blood count; mouth sores and unexplained seizures. Usually if a person has four of these symptoms, the doctors will be alerted. Experts don't know what causes it and there is no cure, but it can be managed. Anyone can get lupus but nine out of 10 people who have it are women, and African American women are three times more likely to get it than white women.
These are the problems Janet Lang faces.
Although her children are now grown, she and her husband, John, have their three-year old grandson living with them.
Lang grew up in Vernon, Fla., and was in the top of her class. She was even able to skip the eighth grade. She graduated from Vernon High School in 1970 and earned a scholarship to Troy University where she was a music major. She graduated in 1974 and married John Lang from Brewton, whom she met while in college. They lived in Prattville for a time and she taught music at Autauga Academy. Within six years she and John were the parents of four children, two boys, David and Hunter, and two girls, Patra and Amber. She also worked on her master's degree. The family moved to Brewton in 1985 and she taught music at Brewton Elementary School for three years. She also got involved with civic affairs in Brewton and was the minister of music at First Baptist Church for two and one half years before becoming too ill to continue.
She was very tired all the time and was having severe headaches. Her children were still young and involved with activities that she found she was unable to attend. Dr. Betty Jean Low referred her to a rheumatologist where she finally found out what was wrong.

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